A fracture is a break in the continuity of a bone; it can be partial or complete, and it can involve one or more bones. Fractures are generally caused by trauma, such as a car accident, a fall, or an impact from another object. They can also be caused by diseases such as osteoporosis. Today, we want to discuss fractures in more detail because we often see lots of questions surrounding the topic.
What’s a Fracture?
We touched on it in the introduction, but a fracture is a break in the continuity of a bone. What does this mean? Well, if you imagine a bone as being a long, solid rod, then a fracture is any break in that rod. The break can be partial or complete, and it can involve one or more bones. While a partial fracture means the bone is still partially attached, a complete fracture means the bone is completely detached.
There are different types of fractures, but the most common are:
- Greenstick fractures – this is where the bone cracks but doesn’t break all the way through
- Transverse fractures – these are horizontal breaks in the bone
- Oblique fractures – these are angled breaks in the bone
- Comminuted fractures – this is where the bone shatters into several pieces
Causes of Fractures
Fractures are generally caused by trauma, such as a car accident, a fall, or a direct blow to the bone. They can also be caused by repetitive stress injuries, such as those seen in athletes who play high-intensity sports. On the other hand, fractures aren’t normally caused by lighter exercises like walking. Typically, walking and lighter exercise leads to problems with the muscles, ligaments, and joints rather than fractures in the bone.
At this point, it’s important to mention osteoarthritis. This is a condition where the cartilage breaks down, causing the bones to rub against each other. Osteoarthritis can lead to fractures, but it’s a different kind of injury. Also, osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become weakened and more susceptible to fractures.
Symptoms of a Fracture
How do you know if you have a fracture? Here are some common symptoms:
- Severe pain at the site of the injury
- Deformity (if the bone is out of place)
- Inability to move
If you’re currently walking around and putting weight through the leg, you probably don’t have a fracture. Typically, fractures happen when there’s a high-impact force (think: car accident, fall from a height) that causes the bone to break. Therefore, you’re likely to get medical attention because of the accident rather than needing to call an expert after.
Treating a Fracture
So, how do you treat a fracture? If the bone is out of place, the first step is to realign it (called a reduction). This can be done by manually manipulating the bone back into place or by surgically placing pins, screws, or plates to keep the bone in its proper position. Once the bone is aligned, it will need to heal; this process can take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on the extent of the injury and surgery.
During this time, you’ll likely be on crutches or in a cast/splint to keep the bone from moving. You’ll also need to see a doctor regularly to make sure the bone is healing properly. Dr. David Slattery is an orthopedic surgeon and one of the most reputable professionals in this industry, so this gives you an insight into the sort of expert you’ll see after a fracture.
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